The Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” hits theaters this weekend and the rock band’s speaker-thumping music is likely to take over Spotify as well.
Named after Queen’s hit song, the film tells the story of the band’s rise to fame and the life of its iconic front man, Freddie Mercury, played by Rami Malek. It is expected to bring in roughly $35 million domestically this weekend, adding to a strong box-office year that is up 11% over last year, according to comScore.
In the film, Queen battles with a record executive who tells them that their 1975 opus “Bohemian Rhapsody” won’t get played on the radio because it’s too long. But in 2018, that song and many of Queen’s other hits will easily get some heavy play on Spotify, thanks in part to the movie’s release this weekend.
Hit films that rely on music to tell a story usually comes with a boost for the band or artist that’s featured in the film, making the licensing of old hits a win-win for studios and for artists. Movie studios can drum up audience interest with great storytelling and a soundtrack full of familiar music. And artists benefit from the added exposure that comes with a Hollywood treatment.
“Even a generic soundtrack to a film can have an impact on sales of an artist,” David Bakula, senior vice president of analytics at Nielsen Music told CNN Business. “You think of ‘Purple Rain,’ you think of ‘Ray.’ You think of these movies that are really about an artist and those tend to have long-lasting effects on their entire catalog.”
Prince’s “Purple Rain” was released before Nielsen data became available, but an album Ray Charles released, “Genius Loves Company,” shortly before “Ray” appeared in theaters received a 60% boost in sales after the film came out.
A more recent example of this is “Straight Outta Compton,” the 2015 biopic about the groundbreaking rap group, N.W.A. Spotify said streams of the group’s music went up nearly 200% after the film’s $60.2 million opening weekend.
Lady Gaga saw streams of her own music increase by 308% over the previous month on the Monday after the debut of “A Star is Born,” according to Spotify.
The same effect is seen in physical album sales. Eminem’s album sales jumped roughly 10% to 15% after the release of “8 Mile,” the 2002 semi-autobiographical film about the rapper’s life, according to Nielsen Music. And Johnny Cash’s albums got a 50% to 80% lift after the release of “Walk The Line,” a 2005 biopic about the country star.
Even films that have nothing to do with music, but include a great soundtrack, can help boost streams for artists.
Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” came with a soundtrack that included songs from the 60s and 70s, giving major exposure to bands such as Blue Swede, the Five Stairsteps and Redbone. In fact, streams of Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love,” the song Chris Pratt’s Starlord danced to during the opening credits, went up almost 4,000% on Spotify after the film’s opening.
Jeff Smith, a film professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose research focuses on the use of music in film, predicts that “Bohemian Rhapsody” will give a boost to Queen’s recordings. It wouldn’t even be the first time a film has been a boon for the band.
“In 1992 when ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was featured in ‘Wayne’s World’ you saw a kind of surge in sales of Queen records and that particular song, just based on how prominently it was featured in the Mike Myers film,” he said.
After Wayne and Garth famously rocked out to the song, it eventually made it to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also made the song “a staple on MTV” and introduced it and the band to “a new generation of listeners,” according to Rolling Stone.
In a referential bit of casting, the record executive who tells Queen their song is too long in “Bohemian Rhapsody” is played by Myers, who also played Wayne in “Wayne’s World.”